Two kids and a Happy Meal: A Decade After Adoption

Mom Stories, 2 kids and a happy meal

Since this month marks the 9th anniversary of nwaMotherlode, we’re reminiscing a little.

This week, in honor of Mother’s Day, we wanted to re-publish some of the beautiful stories we shared in the early days of the website. We received these essays after announcing a contest asking moms to tell us how they came to be the mothers of their children. Just like Motherlode has grown up over these past 9 years, so have the babies featured in these stories.

The story below first published on nwaMotherlode in May 2008 after it was chosen as a winner in our essay contest. It still gives us chills to read it. Look for the dramatic update to this story — 9 years later — at the bottom of the post.

Story by Amy Duncan Protonentis

happy-meal“Isn’t that kidnapping?” our friends asked when we told them we had just met with a birth mom and birth grandma at our local McDonald’s — and driven away with 2 children, Eli, 10 months and Caroline, 26 months.

For 15 years we had been praying for children, been in and out of the adoption process, been wondering at God’s timing in all this, and finally coming to a state of resignation, that I would never have children of my own.

I have loved on all kinds of kids and enjoyed being an aunt, a nursery worker and baby-sitter. Although I would smile and nod at all those encouraging people telling stories of miraculous conceptions and amazing adoptions, I was inwardly heartsick, even angry sometimes: “So, when’s it my turn for a miracle?”

In 2005, we were chosen twice by birth moms for private adoptions. The first mom miscarried, and the second changed her mind a few weeks before the birth. I felt I had had the miscarriage. Every baby shower, I worked to focus on the mom-to-be, and cry on the way home. I could tell you with full assurance that God can and does answer prayer–your prayer, not mine.

Then came March 1, 2007.

I went walking that morning with a friend. Dawn said, “Hey, let’s go visit Michelle at the hospital.” I had a lot of things to do that day and at first said I’d go later, then thought, “Well, why not.” So we jumped in Dawn’s van and headed over.

As we walked in the hospital room, Michelle’s family was gathered around the bed where her son and daughters were watching T.V. She looked up and said, “It’s you.”

Well, nice to see you, too!” I retorted, a little put off by the lack of greeting from one of my best friends.

“I was just looking for your phone number. Come here.”

Michelle pulled me over to the window and asked, “Can you guys take two kids tonight?”

“Sure!” I said flippantly. At the time, we were living with my 85-year-old mother-in-law while we waited for our house to be available mid-April.

“No, for real. I just got off the phone with a relative who is asking if we know anyone who can take a baby and a toddler tonight. The birth mom and birth grandma can’t care for them anymore and they want to find a family to adopt them. Today.”

After controlling my shaking hands and realizing she was completely serious, I got some more details and called my husband. William was at Lowe’s picking out paint for his sister. I asked him, “Do we want to take two kids tonight?”

“Sure!” he said flippantly. (I think we’ve been married too long….)

I said, “No, this is for real.” I gave him the details Michelle had given me and we decided we had to pursue it. Michelle called the relative to give the birth mom my phone number to call when she was ready to talk.

Dawn half-carried, half-walked me out of the hospital to her van. Could this really be it? What’s going on? How is this happening so quickly? Is God doing this? Am I going to be heart-broken again? Will she call? What am I going to say??

My mother-in-law needed to go to the store, so as a distraction I went with her. I hadn’t told her the situation, not really sure I could believe it myself. While we were getting groceries, my phone rang. The birth mom wanted to know if we could meet in a couple of hours. We decided to meet at McDonald’s since it has a play area. I called William and we were on.

My first call was to our lawyer, Keith, who had helped us in the 2005 unfulfilled adoption. “Keith! What do I say? What do I not say? AHHH!” Kind, wise Keith gave me a list of questions, but mostly told me to listen. He said he would have papers drawn up ready to go for the birth mom when she was ready.

Those two hours alternately flew and dragged by. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Disbelief fought hope fought anxiety.

My husband and I went over our game plan, but mostly we just prayed.

We got there first and looked for the best spot to sit and talk. And then in they came: the birth mom with Eli in a baby carrier and her mom with Caroline, holding her hand. I held my breath. Caroline and William and the birth mom went over to the play area and the birth grandma and I settled Eli into a high chair. My first thoughts were, “Holy cow, these are cute kids!!” My next thought was, “Holy cow! Two kids!!”

Amy's kids as babies

After 20 minutes of talking about our stories, the birth mom said, “Yep, you guys are the ones. Are you ready to take them?”

She had a new bag of diapers and wipes, formula for Eli and we got a Happy Meal for Caroline. We transferred the car seats to our car and drove away, having set a meeting at the lawyer’s office for the next day to sign papers starting the adoption process.

As we went along, we alternated between laughing, crying (quietly, since Eli was sleeping and Caroline was looking out the window trying to take everything in), and saying, “We’ve got two kids in the car. We’ve got two kids in the car.”

The next day, the birth mom was early to the appointment, so the lawyer had a lot of time to make sure she understood the permanence of what she was doing. Ten days later, her rights ended. And ours began. We fulfilled all the requirements for adoption — a little backward, since you normally do the paperwork before getting children — and September 26, 2007, Caroline and Eli became Stearns people.

The transition to a family of four has been full of ups and downs, flying by the seat of our pants, generous love and support from family and friends…and a lot of prayer.

bubble wandLast week, Eli turned two. His big sister is teaching him how to swing, blow bubbles and jump from the coffee table to the couch. He hasn’t gotten that last one down yet, but he sure tries.

And they bring joy and light to everyone they meet. My husband works in a retirement center. When we take them, the residents light up, “Hi, Caroline! Hi, Eli!”

People stop me in the store to tell me what beautiful children I have and how much they look like me. They are kind hearted and loving (for the most part). And our story has given many people hope that God does answer prayer — even when the pray-er has given up.

I’ll be celebrating my first official Mother’s Day this year, at the age of 44. God definitely moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

Here’s the rest of the adoption story (so far):

So where are they now? Those two little people who dropped into our laps have grown to pre-teens out to change the world. Nine years. Can’t believe it. Didn’t believe my heart could grow this much either.

Amy's kids

Before we got them, and even for the first few days after we had them, I wondered if I could really see them as mine, as though I had birthed them, carried them in my body for nine months, seen them on an ultrasound, felt them kicking in my belly.

Well, guess what–they are more my people today than ever. I no longer worry that their actions/reactions/behaviors stem from adoption/bonding issues…they’re my kids, being kids.

The three of us have been through a lot of life in these nine years. A couple years after William and I adopted them, we found out he had a brain tumor and he died 11 weeks later.

When I gathered them to my lap the morning of the day I knew he was going to leave us, I told them Daddy was going to Heaven soon, but we would see him again. I didn’t know how they would respond. Caroline looked at me hard and said, “Why?” I told her, “I don’t know, honey, but God will take care of us and we’ll see him healthy and happy.” Eli said in an excited voice, “And he gets to see Jesus??”

We have now moved to a new town, with a new dad (and old friend of mine whose wife passed away soon after William did) and a dog named Rocky, and new friends and an amazing life of adventure…including catching practice baseballs at a Washington Nationals game.

As William used to say, “Life sure is interesting.” And so it is. And it is good.